October 4, 2011
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Contact: Gretl Plessinger
On Saturday September 24, 2011 Liberty Correctional Institution received a phone call from Liberty County Sheriff’s office requesting help in locating a missing five-year-old boy. The K-9 team was informed that Caleb McMillan was last seen playing in his backyard around 12:30 pm and a brief description was given regarding the boy’s clothing and stature. The K-9 unit was deployed from the prison in Liberty County at approximately 1:50 pm, and within 55 minutes the child was reunited with his frantic mother. That same weekend, two juvenile females escaped from Dove Vocational Academy, a Department of Juvenile Justice facility in Graceville, and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from K-9 Officers at Apalachee and Jackson Correctional Institutions. They deployed, and within 45 minutes had found the young women.
Scenes like this are played out 24/7 in cities and counties throughout Florida, where the Department of Corrections is ready at a moment’s notice to deploy one of its 38 statewide canine teams to respond to local law enforcements’ requests for assistance in locating individuals. This year to date alone, the DC’s bloodhounds were called to assist sheriff’s offices, police departments, the Florida Highway Patrol and others in need 359 times – averaging almost one call per day. Of those 359 call outs, 110 involved looking for missing children, adults and the elderly.
The original purpose of the DC’s Canine Tracking Teams was to track (via scent) escaped inmates, but with fewer and fewer escapes occurring (there have been no escapes from behind prison walls since 2006) their services are now being used more often by local law enforcement who don’t have K-9 units of their own, or who need additional K-9s to assist their teams. The dogs live in kennels on the prison grounds, and most are bloodhounds except for a few beagles.
Left: Liberty CI's K-9 Team: (L to R): Far left K-9 Snuffy, Officer Cliff Yaney, K-9 Shady, Sergeant Ernest Tharpe, K-9 Sergeant Jamie Thomas, Officer Morgan Daniels. Right: Missing five-year-old Caleb McMillan reunites with his mother. (Photo Credit: Calhoun-Liberty Journal/CLJNews.com)